December 6 Day 273: Winning

For the first time in a month, I have caught up on my grading. It feels like a miracle.

What made this weekend different from all the others? The fact that this week’s assessment was oral and not online. Yes, I spent a tremendous amount of time interviewing students during the week. But when the interviews were done, so was the grading. It probably took another hour to enter the last of the notes and scores but it was all done before writing my Friday post.

At the end of nine weeks of teaching (out of ten), evidence points to the reality that my capacity for grading Calculus II is limited to two assignments per weekend: either one assessment (plus supporting documentation) and one homework or two homeworks. With 56 student still enrolled, that means at least 112 “things” to electronically touch. At an average of 5 minutes per touch, that requires more than nine hours of grading (and that is an underestimate when it comes to the online assessments.) Having the oral assessment completed before the start of the weekend, I could actually grade both outstanding homeworks—the one submitted this week and the one from last week.

The only way to learn Calculus, is to do Calculus. I have biweekly online assignments for skills practice and immediate feedback. Since I am aware that students have ways of circumventing learning while still completing the online assignment, I also have weekly written assignments that I grade. In the past, it would be an assignment of 3-5 problems and I would grade all submitted problems. To develop a growth mindset, I would allow a limited number of rewrites with a token system. In an attempted to reduce the grading burden, I did something different this quarter. I still assign 3-5 problems and expect students to tackle them all but now I assign to each student one problem to write a solution and post to a class discussion board. Here is the weekly sequence of written homework events:

First deadline. Students post a solution of their assigned problem to the discussion board.
Discussion period. Students compare their solutions with the ones posted in the class discussion board. They are to respond to one post for each problem assigned. Discussion contributions may
1) indicate where too many steps are skipped and more details are needed;
2) point out algebra errors;
3) praise particularly clear presentations;
4) resolve differences between their own work and the work of others.
Students are then allowed to revise their submitted solution based on the discussion in the board.
Final deadline: Last opportunity to revise posted solution before the discussion board closes.
Some weekend day
I grade the discussion board. Each revised solution is graded on accuracy and clarity of presentation (3-4 points depending on the complexity of the problem).
Students earn 1 point per problem for which they contributed a good discussion post.

Because they can read other student’s work and revise their own, the quality of the final solution submitted is generally quite good. Students are getting and giving meaningful feedback (and I think its easier to take criticism from a peer than a professor). They have good examples to model and they see how difficult reading poorly organized solutions can be. To make grading easier, I use a rubric in the course management system. Because I cannot write comments on their uploaded images in the discussion, I type comments in the rubric. Here is an example from this weekend’s work.

Unresolved discussion points and misunderstandings found during grading become issues to be revisited in class. Students have the opportunity to revise and improve their thinking after receiving feedback. I have reduced the number of problems that I have to thoughtfully comment on every weekend. It’s not perfect and not everyone participates fully. But isn’t that the case for any assignment I might devise? All in all, it feels like a win.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: